You may not be aware, but in early March, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published Healthy Beverage Guidelines. Written by an independent panel of nutrition experts, the guidelines are designed to help consumers enjoy all types of beverages by providing them with the information necessary to make informed choices. The introduction of the guidelines has not attracted a great deal of media attention; however, as obesity and weight loss continue to drive product development, they are bound to be referenced.
"Americans clearly need to pay attention to what they drink as well as what they eat," says Lead Panel Expert Barry Popkin, director, University of North Carolina, Interdisciplinary Obesity Program. "The Healthy Beverage Guidelines aim to help Americans recognize the impact that liquid calories have on their overall diets and make healthier beverage choices. They were developed incorporating the principles of variety, proportionality and moderation similar to the USDA Dietary Guidelines."
The panel segmented beverages into six levels based on caloric and nutrient content as well as related health benefits and risks. (See chart.) As you can see, nonfat and low-fat milk faired quite well, ranking third. Coffee came in second best.
If you are a fluid milk processor, I hope you see why this is important. There continues to be increasing interest amongst consumers for ready-to-drink coffee milk beverages. Some marketers are even positioning such drinks as energy beverages, (read this month's special feature to learn more about this hot category.)
Market leader Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, is in the midst of rolling out Starbucks® Iced Coffee, a cold coffee drink made with Starbucks Italian Roast coffee and just a touch of milk and sweetness. In developing the new Iced Coffees, the company looked to trends and customer preferences within the overall coffee category. According to the National Coffee Drinking Trends report from the National Coffee Association of the USA, New York, the majority of customers want a coffee beverage with a simple, high-quality, full-coffee flavor and light dairy and sweetness, which until now has been largely unavailable in the United States. The launch of Starbucks Iced Coffee creates a new coffee refreshment segment of the ready-to-drink coffee category.
The company is also growing its other ready-to-drink lines. Starbucks DoubleShot® Light is a rich blend of espresso and a touch of cream and has the same high-quality, great tasting Starbucks Espresso of the original Starbucks DoubleShot, but with lower fat, calories and sugar.
Though on a much smaller scale, but yet quite significant because of what the products stand for, Innovative Beverage Concepts, Aliso Viejo, Calif., is introducing the first organic and fair trade frappes and mochas marketed under the brand Mocafe Organics™.
Interested in developing a coffee-milk beverage? Here are a few things you should know. The least expensive coffee flavoring ingredient is freeze-dried or powdered coffee. It can be stored at ambient temperature; thus, it has a lengthy shelflife. Unfortunately, such products often deliver an acidic or bitter aftertaste, and a formulator needs to mask this, especially in cold beverages, with other flavors, thickeners or sweeteners.
Concentrates are more commonly used in beverages because they deliver a higher-quality coffee flavor. They are available in a wide range of qualities, as well as a variety of flavors and strengths. They are made by brewing coffee, followed by reducing the water in the resulting brew.
Flavor houses also offer coffee flavorants, some based on real coffee. Such coffee flavors can be used alone or to further enhance the aforementioned coffee ingredients.
There's a great deal of opportunity to grow the coffee-milk business. Go ahead, add a brewed product your line.